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Don't HR Alone #41 - Dress Code Violations and Workplace Automation

Dress Code Violation

Question: Now that the weather is warmer, one of our employees has begun to dress inappropriately for work. Her clothes are becoming more revealing and she has worn flip flops several times. What are our options? Can we send her home to change and, if so, do we have to pay her for that time? Answer: You’re not alone. As summer weather kicks in, many employers struggle with the issue of employee dress and knowing how to handle these situations.

Let’s first address what you cannot do as an employer. You cannot create dress code or appearance policies that interfere with an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. For example, if an employee’s religion requires head coverings, creating a “no hat” policy may conflict with that practice. As an employer, you need to ensure that your dress code policy includes language stating that you are willing to make an accommodation for religious practices unless it creates a safety or workplace hazard. Similarly, employees whose clothing represents their country of origin or that stem from a disability may require an accommodation. What can you do as an employer? You can make the rules for the standard of dress and grooming for your workplace. Outline appropriate protective clothing to meet safety requirements too. It’s a best practice to publish an employee handbook no matter your size. Your handbook is an excellent place to include a dress and grooming policy. When you develop your policy, be specific without overdoing it. For example, having a dress code policy that says, “We require business casual attire,” is probably too vague. “Business casual” can mean different things to different people. On the other hand, specifying the brand, color and style of clothing may be too much information. Try a middle ground such as:

  • Shirts: All shirts with collars, blouses, golf and polo shirts.

  • Pants: Casual trousers or capri-length pants. Jeans without holes or fraying are acceptable.

  • Footwear: Slip-on or tie casual shoes or dress sandals.

You can send an employee home to change or groom. If an employee arrives at work dressed inappropriately or poorly groomed (employees with body odor issues could be a bigger problem in the hot summer months), be sure to discuss your concerns with the employee privately. Refer to your written policy and explain without judgment why the choice of dress or lack of grooming violates the policy. Allow the employee the option to return home or, if the employee does not live near the workplace, to leave work and shop for more appropriate attire. Follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules for payment of time off that includes pay for exempt employees who worked any part of the workweek. If the employee is non-exempt, the FLSA does not require you to pay him or her for this time away from work. You can be flexible. If instituting casual Fridays or occasional breaks from your dress code would improve morale, consider doing so. Some employers offer the option of more casual dress on Fridays during the summer months. You can—and should—set standards for what is and is not appropriate on casual days and ask that employees consider their schedule when choosing their dress. Employees with an important client meeting, for example, may want to refrain from dressing too casually. Finally, once you have created your policies, be sure to apply them evenly to avoid claims of unfair treatment.

Majority of U.S. workers do not fear automation, according to survey — SURVEY RESULTS

Randstad US has released new research findings that contradict many reports that American workers fear losing their job due to automation. The 2017 Randstad Employer Brand Research found that only 14 percent of U.S. employees worry that automation will take their job away, and nearly one-third (30 percent) say they think automation will make their job better.

Alongside their optimism toward automation, workers also report a willingness to retrain or upskill to maintain their current job status. In fact, the study found half of the respondents (51 percent) agreed they would be happy to retrain if they were being paid the same or more than their current salary.

"It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the workplace," said Linda Galipeau, CEO Randstad North America. "These sentiments should be welcome news for companies as they seek greater adoption of automation to drive productivity and innovation. As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology.”

"In addition, it has become necessary for today's employees and job seekers to continually cultivate, develop and update their skills to work successfully alongside AI and automation," Galipeau continued. "In conjunction with retraining and upskilling efforts, workers should focus on growing unique human skills that AI and robots are unable to replicate, such as strategic and abstract thinking, complex communications, creativity and leadership competencies."

U.S. companies also bullish about automation. Business leaders share the same beliefs as workers when it comes to the level of impact automation may have on the workforce. Based on a survey of C-suite and human capital leaders, Randstad Sourceright's latest Talent Trends survey finds that only 6 percent of U.S. respondents believe increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of automation and AI on their business, as evidenced by the following findings:

  • A clear majority (84 percent) of U.S. respondents say they believe AI and robotics will have a positive impact on the workplace in the next three to five years.

  • Forty-eight percent say automation/machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their business in the past 12 months. Forty-five percent say the same of robotics.

  • Seventy-four percent believe automation/machine learning will have sustained or greater influence on their business. Sixty-eight percent hold the same view about robotics.

  • Perhaps due to these beliefs, 31 percent of employers said they have increased their usage of automation/robotics in their business in the past 12 months.

"The inescapable reality is automation and AI are here to stay, and will continue to grow substantially in the near future," said Galipeau. "As business leaders invest in digitization, automation, AI and other emerging technologies in the workplace, they must continue to evolve their workforce alongside these advancements. While the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation are unequivocal, the need for skilled humans to operate, utilize and advance technologies is equally unmistakable. And, we know that real connections aren't made from algorithms or robots, they require human involvement and irreplaceable abilities such as empathy, communication, engagement, intuition and instinct."

Source: Randstad US.

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